I once had a friend named Bill. I trusted him with my life.
Although I can’t be certain, I’m pretty sure that I was first introduced to Bill at Oshgosh. I had known him for several years before we actually, well, go to know each other.
We had talked about him flying some for my team and we ended up in a training session in upstate NY in March. There was still snow on the ground. He had no issue telling me that he thought I was crazy.
Once I had arrived, I found home in a hangar and was putting the AC together when Bill showed up on his Harley, decked out in full leathers and sporting his rad stash. He dismounted his ride like a rodeo pro and sauntered into the hangar, cool as hell. At this point, I made a comment about his assless chaps matching his rainbow coloured flight helmet. He threw his helmet at me with lethal intent. I knew then that we would be great friends.
Every subsequent time that we were together, I learned a little more about Bill. He was an absolute treasure trove of delightfully conflicting qualities. He was most known for being as saccharine sweet as a lollipop wrapped in cotton candy. He was generous with his time and knowledge. He was also like the Hulk on a bad meth trip when he got mad.
We were once at a show together when the FAA threatened to ground him for want of a current inspection date on an emergency parachute. His exchange with the representative got pretty vocal. After a moment, he walked over to me and asked if he could borrow my parachute. While explaining himself, he informed me that he had picked out the perfect spot on the fat f**ks chin were he was going to land his fist……and watch him crumble like a f**king house of cards. This last part was yelled as Bill towered over me, body rigid, fists clenched and near trembling with rage. Because I liked him, I lent him my pack…but not before laughing at him a bit by explaining to the FAA rep that he suffered from a protein deficiency.
Bill was an incredibly shy person….always understated until he decided otherwise. Once that toggle flipped over, he was a wild card with a distinctly warped sense of humour, one that I could appreciate.
Bill loved warbirds. He loved history, moreover, he loved living it through flight. His passion in this was surpassed only by his passion of family. He had an extensive library, was a speed reader and probably more intelligent than I would care to know. Bill was a man who toiled and laboured in the dirt so that he could fly in the sky. After the toggle switched, he would have a drink with you and you knew that it was going to be a Jack and coke.
He was the guy that would say no to me…more than once. Whenever I would call with a harebrained scheme, he was the one who would text me the simple response of “not a good idea”. He never had much to say but what he did say was always worth severe consideration.
He liked my truck. He liked my driving and he liked my airplane. This alone would have earned him a place in my heart but it went so far beyond that. He made time for my friends. He made time for my family and I watched him reach out to those in need, in our aviation family, time and time again. He was my go to guy. He was everyone’s go to guy. When you needed maintenance, when you needed advice, when you needed a pilot, when you needed storage even when you just needed someone to kick you in the ass…..Bill was that guy. I along with so many others will feel his absence for years to come.
Bill was my friend and one of a handful of individuals who was willing or even capable of acknowledging and respecting my work.
My last meeting with Bill was at ICAS in December of 2015. He came over while I was setting up my booth and he told me about his wife passing. I started to cry and Bill was comforting me. It was his loss, yet he still made time to care about me during his pain. That is the kind of guy that Bill was. I think that we should all be a little more like Bill when we can. It would make the world a better place for us all.
I once had a friend named Bill. He sometimes called me a bitch. I sometimes called him a Queen. I trusted him with my life. It was the easiest thing that I ever did.